As I walked through the kitchen area that was packed with various boxes and paraphernalia of a ‘closed for the winter’ National Trust property and was led up to the office area, I felt non-plussed as I made my way up the uneven stairs.
I had my list of questions dutifully prepared the previous day and the office looked like any other busy workplace, so it was easy to concentrate on the task in hand.
But all of that changed the moment I was given a privileged mini behind-the-scenes tour of Montacute House.
The warning sign at the top of the Ham Hill stone staircase was a little late for me as I mis-stepped several of the uneven steps leading up to the Elizabethan Long Gallery, but then through the heavy studded wooden door was the famous Gallery and when they say it’s ‘long’, that is no understatement!
The long stretch of hall makes you feel like you have entered a mini hangar and it’s hard to imagine why they would want such a roomy corridor, but the Elizabethan need of space provides an ideal backdrop to the collection of portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.
There’s a fascinating picture of Henry, King Charles II second brother; not so much the eyes as the right foot that follows you. You have to experience that to understand what I’m talking about!
Then there is the ‘new’ section of the house, built in 1780 where they came across an original Elizabethan stone window.
This led me to the Crimson Room with the bed made famous by the raunchy bed romps portrayed by Johnny Deppe in The Libertine no less!
But by far the most touching and evocative part of my private tour was going into Lord Curzon’s rooms, in particular, his mistress Elinor Glyn’s own room. It was a small by comparison and the walls were festooned with brightly coloured birds of paradise that had been painstakingly created by hand.
When I thought of the sheer joy she must have felt when she moved into Montacute House to be near her great love, Lord Curzon and to then be dealt the bitter blow of a lover’s deceit and dismissal when he became engaged to another, but failed to mention it to Elinor, she having seen the announcement in the papers; I felt as if she was still there in the room. Her grief and sorrow were still very much there in the room, the bright and cheerful birds were no match for her broken heart; I could feel a rush of emotions as I stood on the very spot she may herself have stood almost 100 years ago.
Sadly the room is not yet open to the public, but my guide told me they hope to open it soon for everyone to see.